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Our Q&A with the brilliant comedian behind Juan Likes Rice & Chicken.
If you’re a bit tired of the food world's self-seriousness, you are not alone. Actually, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader are on your side. In the newest season of their Emmy-nominated mockumentary series Documentary Now!, these three comedic talents have parodied Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the beloved food film focused on an 85-year-old perfectionist sushi chef.
In the episode Juan Likes Rice & Chicken, which airs on IFC tonight at 10:00 p.m., writer Seth Meyers puts a basic dish on the ultimate pedestal. Set in Colombia, Juan’s Rice & Chicken is a Michelin-starred restaurant that is a 45-minute walk from the nearest road. Inspired by Jiro, Juan’s menu is extraordinarily simple, but created with only the very best—and well-massaged—ingredients.
With a riveting storyline centered around Juan’s son Arturo, played by Fred Armisen, and cameos by Jonathan Gold and David Chang, you will definitely want to watch.
We chatted with Seth all about Jiro, the episode and the food industry today:
How did you choose Jiro Dreams of Sushi?
We went into this season realizing that this kind of food porn documentary is a genre that exists now, not just with Jiro, but with things like Chef’s Table on Netflix. I think our directors wanted to do the sort of intense shots of food that you salivate over in documentaries.
Have you visited Sukiyabashi Jiro?
No I have not. I would like to very much. My wife and I had reservations for the one in New York that his mentee opened (Sushi Nakazawa) and then my wife got very sick with a cold. So we couldn’t go and I still hold it against her.
Do you think Jiro would watch Juan Likes Rice & Chicken? What do you think he’d say?
I don’t know. I have so much love and respect for him watching the film, but one thing you don’t get a great sense of is what his sense of humor is. So I wouldn’t venture out on a limb and say whether he would like it or not.
How did you get from Japan to Colombia?
One thing that led us here is that we wanted to do the entire episode in a foreign language. We were then limited by the fact that of our two cast members, Fred was the only one who had one of those. Spanish gave us a wealth of opportunities.
Do you have a particular tie to this dish?
I feel like we live in the age now where simple food is treated with a lot more respect than it ever has been before. I read an article about how a food stand in Singapore was awarded a Michelin star and I thought that this is a perfect time for this episode to come out because that’s exactly the kind of thing we’re poking fun at.
Were Jonathan Gold and David Chang hesitant to mock their industry?
David Chang was the easiest sell on earth. I basically got on the phone with him and gave him a two-sentence description of this episode and he was saying "yes" by the time I was done. We had seen the documentary with Jonathan Gold (City of Gold), which had led us to think he would be perfect in this and he writes beautifully about food. So fortunately for us, they were both people who had a good sense of humor about what was happening in their industry.